Societal collective memory seems to be exposed to processes tending to its very rapid erosion. The alternative resource is the international information systems on which much collective consciousness is supposedly based. Their most striking feature is their fragmentation, whether as systems almost completely independent of each other, or individually in their isolation of subject categories from each other. There is also a functional gap between the logical subject hierarchies and the network of operational realities. As a consequence of these limitations, society has both a selective memory exhibited in its documents, and a restriction on integrating new learning into its behavioural patterns. This condemns society to continually reencountering the same kinds of problem.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.